Lannae's Food and Travel

I hope you like my food and travel blog.

December 23, 2009

Staying Local for Winter

Usually, everything I cook has at least one local grown (within 100 miles of my house) component to it. Years ago, I did an "eat locally" experiment for a week, when we ate only locally grown foods with the exception of salt, brown rice (wheat and grains don't grow here), and coffee (I need coffee). At least the coffee we used and still use comes from Bongo Java/Fido, a locally owned coffee shop selling Fair Trade coffee. What came out of that experiment was a revelation that vegetables grown in the traditional way and picked ripe (vs GM industrial unripe produce), free range grass feed meats (vs grain and soy fed industrial meats), and free range grass fed non-homogenized milk and generally taste better. As any good chef will say, good food starts with good ingredients. In my opinion, the local small farm foods I have found are better ingredients than industrial grown, fake flavoring added products. Here are a few local items I made and used this week.

I love the taste of bacon. I will eat most any bacon put in front of me. But, when it comes to cooking and using bacon at home, I prefer Scott Country Bacon which is nitrite and nitrate free, sugar and salt cured, and real hickory smoked bacon. I bake the Scott bacon in the oven, which keep the bacon from wrinkling up and helps the bacon from uneven cooking and burning Baking the bacon fills my home with a lovely hickory smoke aroma that comes from the real hickory wood the Scotts use to create their bacon. My house smelled really good. I can bake the whole pound of bacon at one time, and then drain all the bacon fat at one time for use at another time. I am working on the idea of making my own bacon, when Matt has time. We have the smoker, we live in the "Old Hickory" state, and can get local hickory wood for the smoker. I need to research using locally made honey instead of sugar to cure the pork, and I need to figure out what salt I want to use to cure the pork. I have identified local pig farmer who as free range grass feeds pigs. Next stop, making my own bacon.

Rebekah Grace JD Country Milk

Earlier this year, my small farm (21 cow) local milk supplier went the way of many other small dairy farms. The family just could not make ends meet, and sold the farm and moved north for other endeavors. How sad for them, me and all who enjoyed their milk. What I recall about this grass fed, free range cow milk was the depth of flavor the milk had. The milk had a nutty, sweet, and creamy flavor. When the milk coated my tongue, it provides a irresistible nutty real milk texture and flavor as well as an equally warming aroma in my nose.

The flavor, texture and aroma of this milk is quite similar to the milk and cream we used in our cafe au lait in France. 30 years ago, I had my first love affair with French cafe au lait. The coffee there tasted so good, it had a smooth, nutty, and warm quality to it, that I just wanted to sip and savor each drop. For nearly 30 years, I had been chasing the coffee bean to duplicate the fabulous French coffee I had in France. I stopped using the big industrial coffees in cans from the supermarket, whiched helped cut down on acrid biting (in a bad way) flavor, but I never was able to duplicate the French cafe au lait flavor, not even with really expensive French roast coffee beans. Then, a few years ago during my "eat locally" experiment, I found this local grass fed free range milk from a small local farm. When I sipped on that milk for the 1st time, I had a wave of memory through my taste buds and aroma through my nose. I remembered that French cafe au lait at sidewalk bistro in France 30 years ago. It dawned on me that it was not the coffee bean that made that smooth, delicious nutty flavor of the cafe au lait, rather it was the grass fed free range milk that made that cafe au lait. Every time I used the local milk in my coffee, it was like being transported for a moment back to France.

The only milk I can find right now is Rebekah Grace Milk, it is milk from group of small dairy farms in S. KY, and I pick up my milk in returnable glass containers at the Nashville Farmer's Market on Saturdays 10 am - 1 pm. The milk is pretty good, but I don't know which farm my milk is coming from. None of the Rebekah Grace milk is homogenized. It will suffice for now, and I am glad that my purchase support the small dairy farmers within 100 miles of my house. But, if anyone has word of a local small dairy farm with glass bottles, let me know and I would love to try the milk.

Delvin popcorn, my churned butter and my cayenne pepper

This year, for the first time Delvin Farm grew popcorn. It is so dang easy to grow apparently because you grow the popcorn, and then let the popcorn dry on the stalk. That is it. No processing, nothing. I bought one small bag (about 1 cup) of the popcorn, and regret not buying more. I have only a couple tablespoons left, and I am hoarding the kernels. Delvin's popcorn is lighter, than industrially made popcorn. The "half pops" are nuttier and easier to crunch than other popcorns. I really like the texture of the Delvin half pops, and the texture is tender enough to not break a crown or bust a root canal. How did I make this popcorn? I used about a tablespoon of the bacon dripping grease and a sprinkle of dried cayenne pepper I dried last year to pop the corn in heavy bottom pot. I put the popcorn in a bowl, and then melted some of my home churned butter to pour over the top to make it a really decadent treat. You may be saying pork fat and butter? Is she nuts? That is so unhealthy! True. But, I don't eat locally grown popcorn all the time. I decided that if I were to make this special treat, I was going to really make it a special treat. The bacon fat added such a lovely hickory smoke aroma and flavor, the cayenne added that zip to the experience, and well, home made butter, is there anything better? I only have one more pot of Delvin popcorn to make, and when I make it, you bet that I will be making it up in the most decadent manner that I can. I am going to savor and enjoy every bite for sure.

I went back to Delvin over last weekend begging for more popcorn. They looked at me and said they were sold out until Fall 2010 when they will harvest the next popcorn crop. Then the guy did say that he wasn't completely out of popcorn, but him and his family kept some for themselves to eat through the year. I looked at him and debated in my head whether I could make a deal with him for another one cup of their golden popcorn. I decided not to try and wheel and deal this year. I decided to enjoy the memory of making and eating the 2009 popcorn harvest, and enjoy that feeling of waiting and anticipating for the taste, texture and aroma of the 2010 popcorn harvest. It is like being a kid again when I had to wait days, weeks or months for my special birthday dinner.



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